With every company nowadays seeming to have their own mirrorless system, which one of them is the best for low-light shooting?
Photographer and filmmaker Max Yuryev decided to put five mirrorless cameras to the test. He grabbed a Sony a7 III, a Canon EOS R, a Nikon Z7, a Fuji X-T3, and a 4/3 Blackmagic Pocket 4K and compared their 4K footage in low light with high ISO. Notably missing is the Sony a7S II, but we assume that’s because, besides being an older camera, it would easily outclass its competitors, having been designed specifically for low-light shooting.
You can see the entire shootout in the 10-minute video below:
As the video progresses, Yuryev’s raises the ISO levels of each camera. He started at 160 ISO and worked his way up to 12800 ISO.
Here are the low-light test results:
At 1600 ISO
Each camera works fairly well at 1600 ISO. All the footage is rather clean. Yuryev doesn’t believe any of the footage is unusable.
“The Sony, the Fuji and the Nikon are the cleanest I would say,” Yuryev says. “ … I do see the most noise in the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera.” That would make sense because the camera isn’t doing a ton of denoising because he’s shooting ProRes not RAW. There’s no denoising.
At 3200 ISO
“This is where I start to be a little bit not happy with the Canon and the Blackmagic,” Yuryev says.
As for the a7 III, the footage still looks super clean. It’s not surprising though because it’s downsampling a full-frame sensor from 6K to 4K. The XT 3 looks good too; it’s downsampling a lot of data as well, but with a smaller sensor.
Yuryev is surprised at just how clean the Z7 looks at 3200 ISO. However, he points out the detail in the face looks like “there’s too much kind of smoothing or denoising going on.”
At 6400 ISO
It’s here where Yuryev believes the EOS R isn’t usable. There’s too much noise jumping in the image. This is happening, he says, “because the camera is jumping from a sensor that’s smaller than aps-c, smaller than XD 3, getting closer to the Pocket 4K.”
The X-T3 could be usable depending on your noise preferences, says Yuryev’s.
At 12800 ISO
The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera joins the EOS R in the unusable category at 12800 ISO. The Z7 is also having some trouble at this level. Yuryev notices “weird flashes” of blue and red light.
The Sony, as you might have guessed, still looks clean. It is after all the only one with a full-frame sensor that’s using all the sensor and downsampling 6K to 4K.
But just because some of these cameras aren’t able to reach the quality that Sony is able to reach in low-light doesn’t mean they aren’t great cameras. We really like the EOS R and Z7 when we reviewed them. Yurvey agrees:
“Just because one camera isn’t good at detail doesn’t mean it’s not a great camera, that I wouldn’t recommend it,” Yuryev says. “In fact, I just recommended the Canon EOS R to two different people even though I know it has some shortcomings.”